By Grace Adams, Speech Pathologist.
Vocabulary refers to the set of words that a child knows. Vocabulary can be split into two types: receptive vocabulary and expressive vocabulary. A child’s receptive vocabulary consists of the words the child understands when he/she hears or reads them. A child’s expressive vocabulary consists of the words the child uses when he/she speaks or writes.
Vocabulary is the basis for learning language. Educational research shows that vocabulary strongly relates to reading comprehension, intelligence, and general ability. As children learn to read, they must learn to decode (sound-out) print, but they also must have a vocabulary base (word knowledge) in order to make sense of what they decode. By year 3, however, children are reading to learn, therefore it is important they have a robust vocabulary. For example, a child who is reading to learn about the Revolutionary War needs to know words like war, army, and horses (a basic vocabulary) to understand the history lesson. At the same time, however, the child will likely learn new words like artillery and revolution—continuing to build his/her vocabulary.
There are many things you can do to help your child increase both their receptive and expressive vocabulary, including:
For more tips and strategies for supporting your child’s speech and language development, check out our range of Fact Sheets.
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